Imperfect Running

Not a good speed day

Image by ColtahMang via Flickr

What a week this has been.  Even though I’m feeling mostly recovered, I think I’m still suffering the effects of my cold–my sinuses seem to be an inexhaustible source of mucus, and I’ve been coughing quite a bit over the past couple days.  I’m also a bit more tired than I normally am.  I chose not to run this evening because I’m actually pretty sore from yesterday (I attribute this to my elevated fatigue), and I’m hoping to be able to redistribute my mileage a bit over the weekend so that I don’t completely fall behind on my training, but also don’t overdo it and end up being sick longer than necessary.  It’s a delicate balance!

While thinking this evening about redistributing my mileage, it occurred to me that I would really like some kind of resource that doesn’t assume your running routine is perfect.  The internet (and the world at large, if I may say so) is full of resources on running, but not many of them account for the fact that often, things get in the way of maintaining the perfect schedule.  To tell the truth, a lot of the stuff I read in Runner’s World, or on running blogs, or in books about running, makes me feel kind of like everyone else who runs has a perfectly balanced schedule and gets just the right amount of cross-training, mileage, and rest.  The running world is a world of perfection: there aren’t any road bumps in training, every race is a PR, no one ever gets sick, sore, tired, or injured, and improvement is constant and steady.  Every step is a step forward, and even though not every run is great, there are no overall setbacks.  Frankly, I’m kind of tired of this sort of stuff.  I mean, yeah, it’s useful, but sometimes it just makes me feel downright bad about how I’m running.  I mean, this stuff plays right into my paranoia that during weeks like this, where I’m doing the best I can, I don’t really even deserve to call myself a runner–I’m more of a failure.

Here’s what I want from a major, highly-visible running resource: consistent recognition of the fact that sometimes you don’t feel like running; sometimes you aren’t getting faster; sometimes your fitness level doesn’t seem to be improving; sometimes things just aren’t working out for whatever reason.  I want a resource that acknowledges the fact that you might need some contingencies stowed away.  One that can help you to realize that yes, other people do take a couple hiatuses from running over the course of a year (or half a year), they do get sick while training for marathons and have to find some way around it, they do have weeks where they just can’t hit their mileage targets…where are the resources that are sending that message?  I’m not asking anyone to say that running sucks all the time and you have to slog through it, I just want someone, somewhere to openly admit that even in the best of relationships, things do go wrong.  And then I want them to address that on a regular basis, and not just throw it a bone every now and then by publishing an article called, “How to Get Back on Track After the Holidays” or something.

The thing is, giving running this image of being all-perfect-all-the-time is kind of equivalent to women’s magazines only presenting a very narrow definition of what a healthy body looks like.  It cuts out everything there is that doesn’t fit a specific standard, and there’s much more to an activity than just the good.  Part of the reason many people have trouble adopting an exercise routine is because no one wants to take the good with the bad.  If we could start normalizing the bad–we could start just by acknowledging that it exists!–we might be able to change how we approach exercise, and other hobbies and components of our lives as well.

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  1. I believe it was in Runners’ World that I saw this, but I saw something that said instead of planning your workouts based on a regular 7-day week, you should make your training week 9 or 10 days. That way you can get in a good mix of mileage, hard/easy days/ cross-training, rest, etc. I thought it sounded like both a good idea and a crazy idea, since the rest of the world functions on the 7-day week. It would just make it really hard if you did your long run every 9 days or so… it seems like that would make it even harder to mix into the life schedule.

    But you’re right, the running magazines give an image of perfectionism that I find hard to live up to at times. The whole world gives us perfectionism messages all over the place!

  2. I know what Jill is talking about I read a similar article somewhere about training for a half, they wanted 14 days straight of training before taking a break. Um hello!? yes because my work and school schedule can be altered to fit this. sure.
    I have a conflict with my sinuses as well every couple of weeks, and they don’t cooperate with training schedules. Rest days sick days, and just YOU days are required. screw the perfect people

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